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Facebook blocks Australians from accessing news on the platform

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CANBERRA, Australia (AP) Facebook announced on Thursday that it has blocked Australians by watching and sharing the news on the platform because of the laws proposed in the country to make digital giants pay for journalism.

Australian publishers may continue to publish news content on Facebook, but links and posts cannot be viewed or shared by Australian audiences, the US-based company said in a statement.

Australian users may not share Australian or international news.

International users outside Australia also cannot share Australian news.

The proposed law fundamentally misunderstands the relationship between our platform and publishers who use it to share news content, said Facebook regional director William Easton.

It has left us with a grim choice: to try to comply with a law that ignores the realities of this relationship, or to stop allowing news content on our services in Australia. With a heavy heart, we are choosing the latter, Easton added.

The announcement comes a day after Treasury Josh Frydenberg described it as very promising negotiations between Facebook and Google with Australian media companies.

Frydenberg said after weekend talks with Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and Sundar Pichai, CEO of Alphabet Inc. and its affiliate Google, he was convinced the platforms want to enter into these trading deals.

The Australian Parliament is debating proposed laws that would make both platforms reach agreement to pay for Australian news.

Both platforms have condemned the proposed laws as unenforceable. Google has also threatened to remove its search engine from the site.

But Google is reaching payday deals with Australian news media companies under its News Showcase model.

Seven West Media on Monday became Australia’s largest news media business reaching an agreement with Google to pay for journalism.

Rupert Murdochs News Corp. has since announced a wide-ranging deal.

Rival Nine Entertainment is said to be close to its pact and Australian Broadcasting Corp is also in negotiations.

News plays a bigger role in Google’s business model than in Facebook.

Easton said the public would ask why the platforms were responding differently to the proposed law that would create an arbitration panel to set a price for news in cases where news platforms and businesses failed to agree.

The answer is because our platforms have fundamentally different relationships to the news, Easton said.

Google Search was inextricably linked to the news and publishers did not voluntarily offer their content, he said.

But publishers willingly choose to post news on Facebook because it allows them to sell more subscriptions, increase their audience and increase advertising revenue, he added.

Peter Lewis, director of the Australian Institute of Responsible Technology Institutes, said Facebook’s decision would make it a weaker social network.

Facebook’s actions mean enterprise failures in privacy, misinformation and data protection will require a greater push for stronger government regulation, Lewis said. Without fact-based news to anchor it, Facebook will become little more than cute cats and conspiracy theories.

Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

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